A couple of weeks ago I stated how much I hate glasses on portrait photography. Yesterday, I discovered something I hate even more: Wind at night. With glasses at least you have some tactics to try to avoid the distortion they generate on the face, but with wind… I found nothing that could really help.
Today’s picture depicts the fireworks that traditionally mark the end of the funfair in my city. Some years ago I managed to capture a few nice pictures from a close distance. This year I wanted to try something different. Instead of staying close and using wide angle lenses, I took a friend and we went to a near hill, 3 km away from the launching spot. Although I though the distance would be too much (it is the nearest elevated point to that place), a focal length of 200mm solved the problem much better than expected.
Of course, when we had everything under control, the problem begun.
We haven’t counted with the wind. In my area, wind is usually not a big problem, as hardly ever blows faster than a breeze. But, from time to time, it has a harder day. In the middle of the city, surrounded by buildings, you don’t notice it. But after the sunset is when it blows harder, and in the top of a hill it’s difficult to cover from it. The result: a lot of movement on the camera and a great loss of sharpness. Do you notice those waving lines in the trails? That’s a product of the wind. Of course, in that part it’s even aesthetic, but if you look closely to the city, the blurred and soft aspect it offers it is also due to the wind.
In many places they will offer you tips and tricks to deal with this event:
– Use a sturdy tripod (check!), and don’t use the final segment of it, as it offers less stability than mounting the camera directly on the three legs (check!).
– Although it is recommended to turn the stabilizer off when shooting on tripod, we left it on to compensate the wind movement. It worked, but only a little bit. Better than off, but not for much.
– Put your body between the wind and your camera, to shield it. If it worked for us, we didn’t notice it. Perhaps in the fastest gusts it helped a little bit, but on the long run it seems like it did nothing. Still we followed this trick, as it was easy to do and provided the moral calm of knowing that you were trying all you could.
–Tie your camera bag to the bottom of the tripod. It will add weight and help to stabilize the camera. In my case, this didn’t help. The tripod is heavy enough and it wasn’t moving. The problem was in the camera and the long lens it had attached, which was acting like a lever, multiplying the force of the wind. The resistance to movement overall is only as good as the weakest part. Important: Only do this if your bag is heavy enough to stand the wind. If it doesn’t, it might swing and crash the tripod.
– Use a fast shutter speed. Impossible in this case, as we were interested in the trails the fireworks leave, not in freezing the hot spots. The same happens with increasing ISO and aperture.
– Of course we didn’t try some absurd tips for the situation, like moving to another place to shield from the wind (we wouldn’t be able to take the pictures we wanted) or waiting for the wind to stop (fireworks are not going to wait for us). But they might work for you in another situation.
At the end, nothing really worked well, but at least it helped to turn a bad picture into an acceptable one. Knowledge is not usually a magic bullet to achieve things, but when the situation gets hard, at least it can help to turn the odds into a more favorable result.
What do you think? Do you like it? In a couple of days I will add one or two more of this session, and explain a little bit about the colors of the trails.